We returned to Montana for some Madison River June and July fly fishing after spending 9 days on the Henry’s Fork. Our arrival was on June 27th and have been fishing the wade section at $3 Bridge and Lyons Bridge for the last 10 days.  In my post Fly Fishing the Madison River in June 2021, I mentioned how few bugs were around. That has changed. We’ve not only seen lots of Caddis, which we expected, but also Salmonflies, Golden Stones, PMDs, Epeorus, and Green Drakes.

Karen and Madison Brown | www.johnkreft.com

When we arrived almost 4 weeks ago, the river was running at 943 cfs. Today, it’s increased to 1540. Quite a difference, right? Here is how the water has changed in the last week or so.

Madison River Flows 6-22 thru 6-28 | www.johnkreft.com
Madison River Flows 6-29 thru 7-5 | www.johnkreft.com

Our strategy is still the same…get up early and get to the water around 7 am to start our fly fishing day. We quit anywhere between 12 and 2 pm and hit the river again at night, hoping to find fish rising to Caddis.

During the morning hours, we look for rising fish in the softer water. Remarkably, the best fly so far has been the IOBO Humpy in size 18. For some reason I can’t explain, fish move quite a ways to eat this fly. My wife had a double-digit day using the IOBO. Here is one of my fish. See that small speck in the corner of this trout?

Madison River Brown with IOBO | www.johnkreft.com

The Madison River is a busy place. Whether fishing from a drift boat or walking the banks like we do, you’ll see fly fishers all over the place. But we seem to find our favorite spots available most of the time. Here’s one of them.

Madison and $3 Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

Part of the reason is we only dry fly fish. I’m not being a snob, it’s what we enjoy and we are blessed to fish quite a bit, so I choose not to nymph.

Having said that, I’ve been impressed by those around us who are hooking up on trout. I’ve always believed it’s a very effective method to catch a fish.

Normally, the nymph fly fisher wades through the water we usually fish to cast their nymphs. The trout seem to be used to wading fly fishers and readily return to their holding water after a while and might begin rising to bugs.

It seems to fit right into our strategy.

Karen Landing Madison Brown | www.johnkreft.com
Madison River Brown | www.johnkreft.com

We fished above Lyon’s Bridge a few times in the evening, hoping for hatching Caddis and eager fish. It’s been a mixed bag. My wife caught some very nice fish on a size 16 tan Iris Caddis one evening. Me? Not so much.

The last two nights, we fished around $3 Bridge and did well from 9 to 10 pm. Again, the Iris Caddis came through for us.

Madison River Rainbow with Iris Caddis | www.johnkreft.com

I was lucky to hook and land this fat 19 inch Brown Trout last night on a size 18 Iris Caddis. He ate the fly with a downstream take. Why would this fish spend that much energy for such a small fly? I’ve never understood that. 

Madison River Brown Trout | www.johnkreft.com

And a few more fish images I couldn’t resist including…

Flies that worked for us…

We’ve been fortunate to fish the Madison River for several years. We return because of the beauty.

You know how we like bugs, so here are a some close-ups…

A few Salmonflies in the brush. We watched a family of Canada Geese walking around the bushes, hopping up to catch and eat these bugs.

Madison River Salmonflies | www.johnkreft.com

A few days later, I found Golden Stones

Madison River Golden Stones | www.johnkreft.com

Here are two mayfly spinners mating on our windshield. I believe they are Epeorus mayflies.

Madison River Epeorus Spinners | www.johnkreft.com

And of course, a Green Drake

I think we’ll chose to leave the river in the next few days. We don’t have a specific plan. As I write this post, we’ve fished for 10 days on the Madison.

John's Madison River Brown | www.johnkreft.com

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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  1. Hi John – I was fishing directly across river from you and your wife the evening of July 4th. We met your first evening weeks earlier on the Henry’s fork. I was the guy that made the comment about arriving “2 hours early” for the brown hatch. Thanks for the drake patterns by the way.

  2. Super post and photos as always John, I’m green with envy! BTW, what do you mean by the “safe” section at #3 bridge?

    1. Thanks Tim.

      Should have been “wade”, not safe. Thanks for being my proofreader! I’m hurriedly trying to finish my weekly posts between fishing.


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